The Lord of the Rings movie series could have looked quite different.
Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings movie series is beloved and iconic, featuring memorable performances by actors like Liv Tyler, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, and more. But the film could have looked quite different. As is often the case with major Hollywood productions, a number of other actors were in the mix for the leading roles. Aragon, Frodo, Gandalf, Arwen, and others could have been played by different people, and it’s fascinating to think about what could have been.
In this gallery, we’re running through more than a dozen actors who were, or might have been, in the mix for major roles but ultimately didn’t make the cut for whatever reason.
Perhaps the best-known and most dramatic example is Stuart Towsend. He was hired to play Aragorn. He trained for the role and was on the ground in New Zealand before everything changed. It was decided that Townsend lacked a certain quality that Jackson was looking for. In the 11th hour, Jackson fired Townsend and hired Viggo Mortensen. As the story goes, Mortensen’s son convinced the actor to fly to New Zealand for three years to play the part he is now known best for.
Other actors who could have appeared in The Lord of the Rings included Jake Gyllenhaal, Russell Crowe, Nicolas Cage (yes, really!), Daniel Day-Lewis, Uma Thurman, and even the singer David Bowie. Here’s 15 actors who could have starred in The Lord of the Rings.